Prepared-How to be prepared for the unexpected. I asked a prepper colleague, Jim Cobb to write about pandemics and first aid. The following is written by Jim. Pandemics, what they are and how to prepare for them. If you spend much time talking to preppers or surfing through some of the websites and forums devoted to survival and disaster planning, you will no doubt run across the topic of pandemics. While the threat of a nationwide or even global pandemic has been around for quite some time, recently it has cropped up as popular bugaboo amongst those who are concerned about the fate of the planet in the immediate future. Between Ebola, H1N1, and influenza, the news has been full of talk about disease and illness for what seems like forever.
So let’s think about a few things today, thank you Jim Cobb.
What is a pandemic?
In order to be better prepared for a pandemic event, it is important to first understand what a pandemic is, perhaps by taking a look at a historical example.
By the simplest definition, a pandemic is a widespread infectious disease affecting a large regional area. In other words, a whole lot of people across a wide area get sick with the same illness. However, a bit of common sense comes into play when we talk about whether a disease outbreak qualifies as a pandemic. For example, by the definition we’ve just outlined, the common cold could be considered a pandemic, as could seasonal outbreaks of the flu. Generally speaking, a pandemic means a disease that has crossed international boundaries and is affecting substantial numbers of human beings.
In survival and prepper literature, pandemic and epidemic are often used interchangeably, though they do mean slightly different things. An epidemic is when an infectious disease hits a large number of people in a given area and in a short period of time. A pandemic is when an epidemic spreads beyond international borders.
Here’s an analogy. If we liken an elementary school to a country, an epidemic is like when a whole bunch of kids in one school comes down with the flu in a matter of a few days. A pandemic would be if the same thing happened to a bunch of schools at the same time. Make sense?
Let’s take a look at a historical example.
Spanish Flu (1918-1920)
Experts differ as to the original source of the flu pandemic that swept the globe during World War I. However, the fact that there was a war going on no doubt sped up the transmission of the disease. A lack of proper nutrition may have negatively impacted the immune systems of soldiers. That coupled with the increasing numbers of people traveling hither and yon spread the flu to every corner of the planet. Various reports indicate approximately 500 million people were infected with the virus before it finally ran its course. Of those, perhaps as many as 100 million died as a result.
The population segment hit hardest by the Spanish Flu were the young adults, the people who are typically the healthiest in the crowd. In a nutshell, this particular flu strain caused what is called a cytokine storm to occur in the bodies of those infected. What this does is cause the immune system to go into overdrive. The healthier the immune system is, the stronger the reaction and the more likely it is to kill the person.
Something often misunderstood is how it came to be known as the Spanish Flu. Many countries were noting a rapid increase in the number of people getting sick, particular soldiers at war. Because of the war, the United States and several other countries kept the numbers of ill folks hushed up. The governments involved didn’t want to have morale affected, either abroad or at home. Spain, however, was neutral during the war so news about their citizens being sick wasn’t censored. This led to an assumption that Spain was particularly hard hit by the flu.
While our technology has certainly improved in the last 100+ years and we have the ability to recognize diseases far quicker than back then, we also have vastly increased the amount of travel we do on a daily basis. Diseases can spread across the globe in a matter of hours rather than days or weeks. As we’ve seen in the recent Ebola outbreak in Africa, even the best-laid plans for containment can be all for naught if you have even one person not following instructions.
Given that none of us have a crystal ball that works reliably, we cannot know ahead of time how long a pandemic might last, if one were to occur at all. Well, let me rephrase that last bit. It is a guarantee that there will be future pandemics. What we don’t know is whether any will rise to the level where we’ll need to quarantine at home, either by choice or due to government intervention, and if it does happen, how long we’ll be on our own.
The idea behind quarantine is to limit, hopefully, eliminate, any contact with human beings until the disease has burned out. To that end, you won’t be going out shopping. In fact, if you leave the house at all, it might just be to head into the backyard for a bit of fresh air.
My suggestion is to plan for a minimum of 30 days of quarantine, though 60-90 days would be better. Again, we don’t know how such an event would truly play out. Theoretically, various aid agencies would be able to respond and provide assistance within the first few weeks of any sort of mass quarantine. But, who’s to say how those plans on paper will truly work out? Better to be safe than sorry.
During the time you’re under quarantine, you will need to be able to provide for all of your basic needs. Food, water, hygiene, first aid, the whole works. Let’s make a quick list.
Prepared With Food
How long could you feed your family on what you have in your home right now, without any additional supplies? Fortunately, unless the pandemic were to be a truly world-class event, odds are you’ll still have power so you’ll be able to use all the modern conveniences, such as ovens and freezers. That said, consider stocking up on foods that are shelf-stable and require little to no preparation, such as canned goods, granola bars, peanut butter, and the like. Stick to the foods you and your family already enjoy eating, rather than investing a ton of money into specially packaged foods you’ve never tried.
Prepared With Water
The common statistic given out regarding water storage is one gallon of water per person per day. However, when you consider that the water you have stored might be the only water to which you have access, including that used for cleaning and such, that one lonely gallon sounds awfully small. The good news is that unless there is some sort of secondary crisis that adds insult to injury, a pandemic shouldn’t affect your water supply. Again, though, better to be safe than sorry, so stock up on bottled water and/or invest in a robust rain catchment system along with water filtration equipment.
Prepared For Hygiene Issues
It is said that cleanliness is next to godliness, right? I don’t know if that’s truly accurate, but we can say with certainty that hygiene and overall health go hand in hand. Be sure to have plenty of antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer stocked up. Liquid bleach is excellent for cleaning surfaces in the home as well as purifying water should the need arise. Consider adding an extra tube of toothpaste and an extra toothbrush for each person to the storage closet, just to make sure you have it when you need it.
There are alternatives to toilet paper but most of them are decidedly less than ideal for most people. Toilet paper isn’t too expensive if you shop the sales and use coupons so stock up on enough to last at least several weeks. Baby wipes may also be appreciated, both for the, ahem, intended purpose as well as for general cleaning of the face and body.
Prepared With First Aid Supplies
Hopefully, given that most or all activities will be limited to those in the home, the chances for serious injury will be fairly small. However, be sure to have a good first aid kit on hand, including things like adhesive bandages, elastic wrap (for sprains/strains), gauze wrap and pads, burn cream, and antibacterial ointment. Give a thought, too, of adding a supply of the common over the counter medications your family uses, such as those for upset stomach, pain, fever, and cold symptoms.
If you or any family members regularly take prescription medications, such as maintenance drugs for heart health and such, you’ll need to have a supply to last through the quarantine. Running down to the pharmacy for a refill might not be feasible. Talk to your health care provider about setting up an emergency supply of medications in the event of an extended emergency. In this day and age, most physicians will try to work with you on it, though if the medication is a narcotic, you’ll likely have less success.
Prepared With Personal Protective Equipment
You should invest in a good supply of gear designed to keep you from becoming infected, should you need to interact with people outside your home during quarantine. These include N95 masks, which are far superior to the thin paper dust masks you’ll find at the dollar store, latex or nitrile gloves, perhaps even one or more disposable Tyvek suit if you really want to be well equipped.
Prepared With Entertainment Items
Sounds frivolous, I know, but after even just a few days of isolation, you and your family may need something to keep your minds and bodies occupied. Board games can be found for very cheap at most thrift stores as well as rummage sales. Books, too, are incredibly inexpensive at those same outlets. Even just a few decks of cards and some dice will be appreciated.
Naturally, it would be impossible to cover every single need or contingency for pandemics in a single blog post. However, use the information here to get the juices flowing in the old noggin’. Give some thought as to what you’d need to have on hand in order to make it through a 30-day quarantine with your sanity intact.
Jim Cobb has authored several emergency preparedness books. Thanks so much Jim, for sharing what we need to do be prepared for a pandemic or any unforeseen disaster. Please be prepared everyone. You will be glad you are!
Jim Cobb-Survival Weekly: Survival Weekly by Jim Cobb.